The USA women finished the first three rounds of Volleyball Nations League with another victory and head into the quarterfinals as the team to beat.
The Americans defeated Germany 25-17, 25-13, 13-25, 25-22 on Sunday and finished preliminary play 11-1, a game ahead of Brazil and Italy. They’ll play Serbia in the first round on July 13 in Ankara, Türkiye.
“We made a strong statement and qualified atop the season standings,” USA coach Karch Kiraly told USA Volleyball. “That won’t count for anything in finals week, so we look forward to starting fresh and going to Ankara against the best teams in the world.”
Meanwhile, the USA men, off since June 26, resume play Monday night/Tuesday morning, when they play Germany in Osaka, Japan.
“It’s Fourth of July week, so we’re going to try to celebrate America with some key wins,” USA men’s coach John Speraw said.
USA women get past Germany
Germany had to win to advance to the quarterfinals, but was completely outmatched in the first two sets before making a match of it. Watch full-match highlights here.
The USA lineup was againg completely different from the match before. Outside Sarah Wilhite Parsons was on fire early and finished with 18 kills, hitting .302, and had four blocks, two aces and 10 digs. Watch her highlights here.
“It feels great to finish how we did,” Parsons said on the post-match VolleyballWorld.tv interview. “It’s been a long five weeks, and after 12 matches, it’s great to finish on a win.
“Germany pushed us pretty hard, especially in the third and fourth sets, and we just stayed calm and fought for it until the end.”
Opposite Jordan Thompson had 12 kills, a block, an ace and eight digs.
Outside Kathryn Plummer had seven kills, hitting .333, with two blocks, an ace and seven digs. Kelsey Robinson came in for Plummer in the fourth set and had four kills while hitting .364 and three digs.
Dana Rettke had seven kills, hit .416, and had two blocks and four digs, while the other middle, Tori Dixon, had two kills, two blocks, an ace and three digs.
Setter Micha Hancock had a kill, an ace and eight digs.
“Props to our team on playing a very strong VNL through all three weeks with different travel groups and starting lineups,” Kiraly said. “They did a nice job bringing out the best of each other and working to reset when things weren’t going so well. We’re really happy with how our team responded.”
The USA held a 51-50 kills advantage, led 11-7 in blocks, and 6-3 in aces.
Hanna Orthmann led Germany with 12 kills, 11 digs and a block. Camilla Weitzel had five kills, three blocks, two digs and two aces.
VNL quarterfinals in Türkiye
The USA won the VNL in 2018, 2019, the tournament was canceled in 2020, and the Americans won last year en route to winning Olympic gold in Tokyo.
In the first round of the quarterfinals the USA plays Serbia, which it beat 25-17, 33-31, 25-16 just last week.
The USA plays Serbia on Wednesday, July 13, after Brazil plays Japan. Japan, which lost its last four matches, is the only team to beat the USA.
The next day, Italy plays China, and Thailand, which got in when Germany lost, plays Türkiye.
USA men start third round
The Americans had a tough go in Sofia, Bulgaria, when they went 2-2 and stand 6-2 going into their match with Germany (3-5).
“We’re excited to get back up and running,” Speraw said. “We’ve had a few nice days of training here in Osaka at Panasonic where we were hosted by Laurent Tillie and the Panasonic men’s volleyball program. We’re super grateful. That was a really nice few days of training.”
Tillie is the coach of Olympic gold-medalist France and his son, Kevin, played for Speraw when he was the coach at UC Irvine and they won the NCAA title in 2012. Kevin is an outside hitter on the French team.
France and Poland are atop the men’s standings at 7-1. The USA is tied with Italy and Japan, a game ahead of Brazil and the Netherlands. Iran and Serbia are 4-4, so clearly the final few spots in the quarterfinals are up for grabs.
The 14-player USA roster includes the first appearance of Olympic setter Micah Christenson, who joins Josh Tuaniga, who has handled the setting so far.
The liberos are Kyle Dagostino and Erik Shoji.
The middles are Jeff Jendryk, Mitch Stahl, David Smith and Tyler Mitchem.
The opposites are Kyle Ensing, who has been the offensive leader for the USA in its first eight matches, and Jake Hanes.
And the outsides are Aaron Russell, TJ DeFalco, Garrett Muagututia and returning Cody Kessell. Two-time Olympic outside Thomas Jaeschke is injured.
“I think we’re in a really nice position after the first couple of weeks to qualify for the finals,” Speraw said. “We intend to finish it off by playing even better volleyball.
“It’s always good to get Micah Christenson back in the gym and have his experience and leadership on the volleyball court. I feel very comfortable and pleased with Josh’s performance over the first couple of weeks, so I know we have good depth there.
“I’m not exactly sure what the roster will look like from a match-by-match basis, but I know we can to our bench, whether that’s for individual match tactical needs or just managing the volume of a long tournament.”
The USA also plays France, Canada and Argentina in the third round.